Seed of the Week – Appreciative Inquiry

Today is a new day for each of us, a new beginning, and for me it is the start of a new weekly blog called Seed of The Week. I would like to publicly acknowledge Jessie Saran for being at the edge of helping me form this vision. As one of my weekly readers this post is dedicated to you Jessie! seed_v1

I would like to talk a little about Appreciative Inquiry and how this approach to relationship can make teams stronger. Having just returned from an intense retreat at Royal Roads University I have continued to see the power of individuals in creating their destiny. As each of us dig deeper into understanding who we are it appears as though some similar themes abound on the merits of our relationships. Personal awareness, interpersonal support, and integration of feedback all seem to have risen to the surface as core outcomes of this retreat. In my opinion, interpersonal relationships are the cohesive threads that connect these themes.

Interpersonal relationships draw us out of isolation and allows us achieve momentum to build and create our capacity to grow both as individuals and teams. Cooperrider (1998) promoted that appreciative inquiry “is about building learning community … and open sharing with one another as creators, colleagues, co-theorists, and co-conspirators” (p. 3). If relationships connect our experiences, an appreciative stance can only make them stronger. Building a sense of solidarity on teams is also likely a component of the success of relationships in an organization.

Working in a cohort on various projects during this retreat, I came to realize once again the power of strong teams. My good friend suggested that teams are strongest when they are created in an environment where everyone is on equal footing (S. Amaljil, personal communication, February 23, 2013). In my experience, I agree that working on a team with equal authority, mutual intent, and a willingness to learn creates the momentum for change. Cooperrider (2001) stated that “we all have a desire to be able to share, without censorship, our hope and visions of the true, the good, and the possible” (p. 12). In my experience, organizations continue to struggle with achieving this latitude (Vocabulary.com defines latitude as the “freedom from normal restraints in conduct”). Perhaps organizations are burdened by the history of their inherent social norms and archetypes that exist within their cultures? Perhaps organizational cultures create the barriers that censor people’s willingness to share their true feelings and in the process inhibit the full potential of the power of the relationship?

Interspersed throughout the book Lessons from the field: Applying appreciative inquiry, Hammond and Royal (2001) bring forward key lessons that point out the flaws of using a problem solving approach to creating organizational change. They further bring in Cooperrider’s (1996) blueprint for creating community change promoted that problem solving is slow, ineffective, rarely creates vision, and is knows for generating defensiveness (p. 148). In our learning community at Royal Roads we approached situations from a developmental rather than problem solving lens. Approaching each of our challenges through a developmental lens allowed us to “come together to both construct images of the system’s most desired future and to formulate creative strategies to bring that future about” (Cooperrider, p. 151). The trick now is to figure out how we can truly immerse the power of this stance into our organizations in a way that reduces the value of authority and hierarchy, and increases the power of individual strengths as part of the collective approach to building stronger teams. What do you think? I look forward to your comments.

References

Cooperrider, D. (1996). Getting Started. In Hammond, S. A. & Royal, C. (2001). Lessons from the field: Applying appreciative inquiry. Revised edition. (pp. 147-159). Plano, TX: Thin Book Publishing.

Cooperrider, D. (1998). What is appreciative inquiry? In Hammond, S. A. & Royal, C. (2001). Lessons from the field: Applying appreciative inquiry. Revised edition. (p. 3). Plano, TX: Thin Book Publishing.

Cooperrider, D. (2001). Why appreciative inquiry? In Hammond, S. A. & Royal, C. (2001). Lessons from the field: Applying appreciative inquiry. Revised edition. (p. 12). Plano, TX: Thin Book Publishing.

About johnthornburn

Masters in Leadership graduate from Royal Roads University. An Engagement specialist engaged in various avenues of organizational and community development. Currently interested in social innovation, planning and engagement. View all posts by johnthornburn

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